LONDON (AFP) – Sleaze is hobbling the recovery of war-ravaged countries like Iraq and Somalia, which joined Myanmar among states perceived as the world’s most corrupt, an anti-graft watchdog reported Wednesday.
Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) said in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index covering 180 countries that some of the world’s poorest nations were seen as having the most dishonest political and business elites.
But the group said that even countries believed to be the least corrupt — named this year as Denmark, Finland and New Zealand — needed to do more to combat corporate graft.
“It is not just a problem of the poor countries, rich and poor nations share heavy responsibility, said Huguette Labelle, chairwoman of the respected organisation.
“The top scorers, the wealthy countries, are often complacent .. bribe money often originates in the top scorers, the wealthy countries,” she told a press conference in London.
The index score relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts. It ranges between zero, which is highly corrupt, and 10, which is very clean.
On the 2006 list, the worst levels of perceived corruption were in Haiti, Myanmar, Iraq and Guinea.
TI has frequently noted that because the index is based on subjective assessments, the fact that Iraq had such a low rating may be linked to the bigger international profile of the country since the US-led invasion in 2003 and the huge influx of reconstruction funds.
It continued to find a strong link between poverty and graft with 40 percent of the countries scoring below three this year — indicating that corruption is considered to be rampant — classified by the World Bank as low-income states.
Myanmar, whose military rulers are currently facing the largest anti-government protests in 20 years, was tied with Somalia at the bottom of the list with a meagre 1.4 rating, while Denmark improved its showing to join “perennial high-flyers” Finland and New Zealand with the top score of 9.4.
Wealthy democracies rounded out the top 10 on TI’s list — Singapore and Sweden (9.3), Iceland (9.2), the Netherlands and Switzerland (9.0) and Canada and Norway (8.7).
It noted significant improvement among African countries such as Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland, which the organisation said highlighted that political will and reform can root out sleaze.
Eastern European states including Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, and Romania also bettered their showing, which TI attributed to the “galvanising effect of the European Union accession process”.
But strife-wracked states such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan remained stuck at the bottom of the index.
“Countries torn apart by conflict pay a huge toll in their capacity to govern,” Labelle said.
“With public institutions crippled or non-existent, mercenary individuals help themselves to public resources and corruption thrives.”
TI said top-scoring countries had an obligation to support more accountability and “institutional integrity” in countries with the highest levels of public-sector corruption.
“Bribe money often stems from multinationals based in the world’s richest countries,” the report said.
“It can no longer be acceptable for these companies to regard bribery in export markets as a legitimate business strategy.”
It added that offshore financial centres, often located in the most developed countries, allowed corrupt officials to hide their ill-gotten wealth.
TI said that such states must help the asset tracing and recovery process while multinational companies introduce and implement anti-bribe codes.